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William M. Polk


Centurion, 1886–1918

Full Name William Mecklenburg Polk

Born 15 August 1844 in Ashwood, Tennessee

Died 23 June 1918 in Atlantic City, New Jersey

Buried Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York

Proposed by Stephen P. Nash and Thomas B. Coddington

Elected 4 December 1886 at age forty-two

Century Memorial

William Mecklenburgh Polk, son of the celebrated “fighting bishop” of the Confederacy, General Leonidas Polk, and father of our present Acting Secretary of State, [Frank Lyon Polk,] was thrown on his own resources early in life, confronting the task with high courage and resolution. Captain in the Confederate Army before reaching the age of twenty, he faced the situation of 1865, graduated at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons four years after the war, and became during many years a leading practitioner of this city, and one of the most distinguished gynecological surgeons in the country. He was honored with the presidency of the Academy of Medicine and was the first Dean of the Cornell Medical School, in which office, occupied by Dr. Polk until his death, he was an active force in bringing the institution to its present high standard. A man of great industry in the study of both theory and practice, more particularly in the inter-relations of mind and body, he combined this branch of research with a very thorough knowledge of therapeutics, in which there was scarcely his equal in New York. His clear mind and deep study threw strong light on many obscure medical problems, and directed attention to the paths leading to many important improvements in medical practice.

In his personality he combined a handsome presence with genial manners, impressive dignity, and great charity of thought and act. His patients were always cheered by his presence and lovingly devoted to him.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1919 Century Association Yearbook